April 28 (UPI) -- With trade levels growing in response to easing sanctions, the energy commissioner for the European Union said Friday he was headed to Iran to strengthen ties.
EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete left Friday for Tehran for the inaugural bilateral business forum on sustainable energy. The commission said the forum aims to bring more than 50 European companies with 40 of their Iranian counterparts to lay the ground work for joint partnerships in the energy sector.
On his departure from Brussels, the commissioner said bilateral trade between the EU and Iran is up 79 percent, with exports from Iran quadrupling since a multilateral nuclear agreement brought sanctions relief to the Islamic republic in January 2016.
"Now we want to take this success story one step further," he said in a statement. "The energy sector will feature prominently in our future relations and we are committed to fully tap into its economic and social potential while contributing to achieve our climate commitments."
Iranian state media this week said the EU was already establishing stronger bilateral ties in the agricultural sector. The EU stressed the two-day forum in Tehran is geared toward clean energy and the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Ali Khamenei, the ruling cleric in Iran, has called for a so-called resistance economy, one that limits exposure to international market shocks and sanctions pressures in part by weaning itself off oil for revenue. According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, non-oil exports for the 11 months ending March 20 were up 33 percent.
International Monetary Fund projections said the economy of Iran, one of the top oil producers in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, should grow at a rate of about 4.5 percent, but wax and wane between growth of 6.6 percent this year and 3.3 percent through 2018.
A profile of the ease of doing business with Iran from Britain, which is now still part of the EU, said "Iran is the biggest new market to enter the global economy in over a decade."